Charles Barkley joins the China crew

Charles Barkley

Yet more celebrities have lined up to defend business deals with the world’s largest totalitarian state. One of them is Charles Barkley. On October 10, TMZ reported that in the view of Barkley – the former power forward for the 76ers, Suns, and Rockets, and currently a sports commentator – anyone who criticizes the NBA for its zero-tolerance policy toward criticism of China, which includes ejecting from games those who express support at an for the people in Hong Kong who are protesting Beijing’s attempt to crush their freedom, is an “idiot,” a “jackass,” a “fool.” Try to follow this logic, which Barkley served up on the Dan Patrick Show: “you guys have been killing Colin Kaepernick for the last X amount of years,” but now “you want to control what happens in a foreign country?”

Colin Kaepernick

Kaepernick, of course, is the mediocre football player who worships the memory of Che and Castro and who started the whole business of “taking a knee” during the National Anthem as a way of protesting the unjust killing of black persons by white cops. Never mind that when you take into account the size of the different population groups, white cops don’t kill any more blacks than they do whites. There is evidence, indeed, that white cops are more careful about pulling a gun on a black person than on a white for fear they’ll end up being branding racists all over the news media. Besides, what Kaepernick was disrespecting was the Star-Spangled Banner and hence, by extension, the U.S. – a free country in which he has been able to become a rich man on the basis of a set of modest athletic skills. As for Barkley’s claim that “you guys” – presumably the media? – had been “killing” Kaepernick for taking a knee, au contaire: whereas Kaepernick’s less-than-spectacular talent on the gridiron had kept him pretty obscure, once he began taking a knee he won praise from all the usual suspects, collecting awards from GQ, Sports Illustrated, the ACLU, the Puffin/Nation Institute, Amnesty International, and Harvard. Yes, a lot of disgruntled fans, understandably turned off by his ingratitude and lack of patriotism, stopped watching NFL games. That’s their right.

Abe Vigoda as Tessio in The Godfather: “Tell Michael it was just business.”

But how to compare Kaepernick’s self-aggrandizing demonstrations against America, for which he risked no official punishment whatsoever, with the Hong Kong protesters, who are literally risking their lives by standing up for freedom? Bradley’s excuse for NBA honchos who side with the tyrants of China against the people in Hong Kong whose very freedom is under threat was simple: “They have billions of dollars at stake,” he said. “It’s a business decision. I understand the NBA. The players and the owners both got billions of dollars at stake.” Ah yes, the famous old distinction that keeps cropping up in The Godfather: “It’s not personal, it’s business.” This is indeed how the Mafia operates, and it’s how the American creeps who get rich off of Chinese slave labor defend the indefensible.

More NBA toadying

Hong Kong protests, June 16

And on it goes. In recent posts we’ve contrasted the courage of Hong Kong protesters – who are putting their lives on the line to risk the growing encroachments on their freedoms by the government in Beijing – with the readiness of American individuals and firms that do business with China to sell out the idea of liberty for a buck.

Sam Wachs and his wife before being ejected from the arena

Since American sports are so big in the PRC, many of these latest stories of cravenness and cowardice have had to do with athletics. We’ve seen that the NBA and ESPN have both been lightning-quick to sacrifice any pretense of principle in order to avoid offending Xi’s tyrannical regime. Well, here’s more. On October 10, Reason magazine’s Eric Boehm reported that two different sports arenas in the U.S. had ejected fans protesting the Communist Chinese attempt to crush liberty in Hong Kong. On October 8, it happened at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, where Sam Wachs and his wife, who had bought tickets to a preseason game between the Philadelphia 76ers and a visiting Chinese team, the Guangzhou Loong Lions, displayed small signs reading “Free Hong Kong.” Security guards were quick to give the Wachses the heave-ho.

Protesters in DC

The next night, the same Chinese team were in Washington, D.C., for another game, in this case against the Washington Wizards. This time there were several protesters. They wore t-shirts bearing slogans in support of the Hong Kong protesters and unfurled a “Free Hong Kong” banner. When the banner was confiscated, they waved a homemade sign reading “Google Uighurs,” a reference to the current internment by the Communist Chinese government of more than a million adherence of that Muslim minority. That effort, too, was quashed.

Adam Silver, NBA boss

As Boehm pointed out, the NBA’s aggressive treatment of what was frankly a small number of protesters at a couple of U.S. basketball game has only served to draw attention to China’s perfidy and to the NBA’s eagerness to do China’s bidding. On October 10, the New York Post ran an op-ed by one of the Washington protesters, Jon Schweppe, who explained that he and some friends had decided to stage a protest at the Washington game after reading about what happened to the Wachese in Philadelphia. The sight of NBA thugs “groveling to a totalitarian regime and censoring…fans” in Philadelphia, of all places, “home of the Constitutional Convention and the Liberty Bell,” had gotten his dander up. Would the NBA, he wondered, dare to treat supporters of freedom the same way in the nation’s capital?

That tiny Uighurs sign that was too much for the NBC bigwigs

The answer came quickly. When he and his pals unfurled their banner, they were told by NBA reps: “We respect your freedom of speech, but…we don’t have any stance on [Hong Kong]. So we’re just asking not to have any signage related to that in here tonight.” The little sign about the million-plus imprisoned Uighurs didn’t please the NBA bosses either. “My friend,” writes Schweppe, “pleaded that we were simply seeking to educate some of the NBA officials, coaches and players, many of whom had expressed ignorance about the issue. It was in vain: The supervisor still confiscated the sign and told us that if we continued to disrupt the game, we would be ejected.” Instead, Schweppe and his friends just chose to leave. Good for them for standing up for freedom. Shame on the NBA for putting its profits first.